A/N: This is an alternate version of a story I posted in my challenge series. There's a whole story about how these came about, which is posted at the top of the original version.
Drabble 2 | Fly Me to the Moon - The Alternate Version
"You can go on in," the nurse said in an undertone. "She's resting, but we told her you were coming today." Pressing a pile of file folders against her chest, she paused at the door and looked back over her shoulder at them. Dropping her voice, she warned, "I'm not sure how she'll be. I'm afraid she's been having more off days lately."
"We understand," the woman with long brown hair said sympathetically as the nurse threw open the door and gestured them inside, closing it behind them.
The old woman was seated in a rocking chair facing the window, her tired eyes gazing out at the hospital gardens. She didn't move or give any indication she was aware that she had company, even when her companions approached her chair.
"Mrs. Lane-Kent?" the young woman said as she rounded the chair to move into view. Hazel eyes flickered towards her but then returned to the window again. The young woman continued, "My name is Sonia Jackson. We talked the other day?" A flicker of confusion crossed the old woman's face. "This is my partner, Peter Wright. We're here to interview you." Lois grunted, an inarticulate and unenthusiastic greeting.
A long silence stretched as the young duo exchanged a glance and tried to decide how to continue. Lois didn't speak. Rather, she started to fiddle with the sweater swung over her shoulders, trying to pull it closed. It had snagged on the back of the chair, so Peter stepped forward and freed it. As he leaned to help her, he tried again, saying gently, "We're here because, as you know, Lois Lane and Clark Kent are legendary names in the world of journalism. We'd like to write a story about the two of you. I think people would really love to know more about the relationship that went on behind the bylines."
Lois lifted her eyes to his, and for the first time, there was a spark of amusement there. "Oh, I know. You think after all this time, I can't recognize a reporter on the trail of a story?" she joked, her voice tremulous with age but still firm. "I can also tell that neither of you are very excited about this assignment; probably think there are more important stories you could be breaking." When she saw them exchange a guilty look, she shook her head, and smiled as though she had a secret. "No, it's okay. I understand. I would have been the exact same way."
Peter smiled in response and straightened, and she leaned back in her chair. As they took seats nearby, Lois's gaze drifted back to the window, but this time, they knew she wasn't ignoring them. Her eyes sparkled with life and a small smile curved her lips, though her gaze was distant as she recalled fond memories.
"So you want to know about my relationship with Clark," she mused absently, almost as if she was speaking to herself. She dropped her hand to her lap, to run fingers gnarled with age along the string of pearls lying across her knee.
For a long moment, it seemed she wouldn't say anything further, so Sonia prompted, "How did the two of you meet?"
Lois threw back her head and cackled. Her eyes were dancing merrily as she grinned at the young woman. "I found him naked in a field, actually." Sonia's arched eyebrows betrayed her skepticism, and Lois hooted with laughter again. "Oh, I may be old, and my memory might not be as good as it once was, but I'm not senile. And trust me, it would take a lot to forget something like that! I'm sure you've seen pictures, so you should know my husband was very good looking!"
Sonia smiled uncertainly, as if she still wasn't sure whether or not to believe this story. "What happened?" she asked.
Lois shrugged, the method in which she'd found him clearly not interesting her nearly so much as the state she'd found him in. "Oh, he'd been in an accident. Struck by lightning; didn't remember a thing. At least that's what he said."
Pulling out a pad of paper and a pencil, Sonia kept her voice noncommittal as she asked, "But that's not what really happened?"
Curving her hands around the arms of her chair, Lois began to rock gently, and Sonia wondered if she had deliberately misunderstood the question when she replied flippantly, "Oh, I'm sure he didn't remember everything, but he never forgot that he was naked when we first met." With a wistful sigh, she added, "I certainly made sure he'd never live that down." Then, glancing at Sonia, she nodded towards a nearby bookcase. "Hand me photo album on the bottom shelf."
Sonia gasped. "You have a picture of it?" she asked incredulously.
This struck Lois as funny, because she laughed again. "Oh, I wish, believe me!" Sonia handed it over, and Lois laid it lovingly on her lap, stroking its edges with ancient hands. However, Sonia and Peter couldn't help but notice that the deep lines in her face smoothed out as she smiled down at the well-loved photo album and pulled it open. In the few minutes that they'd known her, they'd never seen her look more alive than she did as she gazed at those reminders of her past. "I guess I should start at the beginning, if you two want the full picture for your story," she began.
As the young couple scooted closer, Lois ran her hand down the glossy page and started to talk, telling them stories of her life with Clark. Sonia had her pad of paper on her lap, but it was fortunate that Peter had thought to bring a tape recorder, because as Lois talked, the two of them got too lost in the stories to take sufficient notes.
In page after page of the photo album, Lois had preserved the history of Clark Kent and Lois Lane. There were pictures of the two of them in high school, with Clark dressed in a football uniform, his helmet swinging casually by his side as he walked next with her across the field. Her hair was pulled up into a long pony-tail, and she was smirking over at him.
There were pictures of her with his family, Jonathan and Martha Kent. She talked about her time living with them and the way they'd welcomed her into their family long before she and Clark had fallen in love. Her face grew sad as she talked about Jonathan Kent's death and the toll the loss had taken on Clark. She also talked about her relationship with Martha – first as her chief of staff, then as her friend, and finally as her daughter-in-law. The pearls in her lap had originally been Martha's, Lois admitted, given to her as a gift at their wedding – the "something old" she'd worn down the aisle. She didn't recount her tales in a linear fashion but rather shared them as they came to mind. When she talked of Martha's death, they could sense the pain she'd felt when she'd wished the older woman goodbye.
With each story, she painted a picture for her companions; they almost felt they were right there with her and Clark in Smallville, Kansas as it had been once upon a time. But perhaps that was because she was so clearly there, herself. This was her reality – not her day-to-day living in a hospital as she watched her life slip away but in those moments of her youth, when she'd truly known what it felt like to be alive. Tomorrow, she might not remember this conversation; it might fade from her mind as if it had never been. But she would ever forget these precious memories of the life she'd spent with the man she'd loved.
They grinned when she talked about Clark's first day at the Planet, showing up in a plaid shirt with a backpack slung over his shoulder. How she'd decided to take him under her wing, stealing a co-workers clothes and shoving Clark bodily into a nearby phone booth as she demanded he change. Then they laughed when she regaled them with tales of their adventures together, as partners at the paper. It was quite clear that Lois had always been the reckless one, prone to jumping into the path of danger, and Clark had spent most of his time trying to reign in her impulsive nature enough to keep her from getting killed. She painted the picture of the Planet so well that, though they hadn't known the man, their hearts twisted when Lois mourned the death of Perry White, the man who had seen something special in her work and had quickly come to mean a great deal to her.
They grew quiet when Lois told them about how she and Clark had fallen in love. Their first kiss, in the Daily Planet bullpen. Their first date, a quick cup of coffee grabbed when they snuck away from work. The first time he told her he loved her, after he'd walked her home late one night after a date (date thirty-two, she informed them with surprising certainty). The little ways that, over time, he'd stolen her heart and saved both her life and her sanity.
She told them about the night Clark proposed to her, his voice trembling with emotion as he knelt before her and asked her to be his wife. Their wedding, which had been small – only attended by friends and family. For a time, she lost herself as she stared the picture of the newlyweds, their arms wrapped around each other as they forgot about the world around them and lost themselves in their first kiss as man and wife.
Now that Lois had begun to talk about the love she'd shared with Clark, it seemed she couldn't stop as story after story spilled out. The nurse brought them lunch and she barely touched it as she told her companions about the small details that made up their lives together. She talked about the endless hours they spent working together on stories – or just sitting up late on the balcony of their first apartment, staring out at the city lights as they talked about everything or about nothing at all. The mornings Clark surprised her with a maple donut and a cup of coffee in bed. The way he would sling his coat over her shoulders when she was cold, or how he would rest his hand gently upon the small of her back as he led her into a room . The way he would kiss her goodnight, even if they were in the middle of a fight and she was furious with him. The way he told her he loved her every single day, without fail.
Lois had talked for hours about loving Clark when it came time to talk about losing him. He had died of a heart attack a little less than a year before, when her heath was deteriorating and it became clear she would have to be cared for in a hospital. Her eyes glazed over with sorrow and pain, she bowed her head and closed the photo album, pressing it to her chest. Her voice thick with emotion, she talked about his funeral. As she talked, she began to fade; in the memory of losing him, she lost herself once more, and they watched as her mind slipped away again. Her eyes grew dim once more, the animation left her face. She remembered her loss, still felt the pain of it, but in her mind she was fifty years younger, still thrilling in the love she and her husband shared.
When the nurse came in to tell them that visiting hours were over, Peter reached over and grabbed the tape recorder, shutting it off, as he and Sonia stood. "Thank you for speaking with us," he said softly.
"If you don't mind, we'd like to come back," Sonia said in a similar tone. "Just…to talk some more, if you want."
Lois didn't respond as she stared out the window, her eyes hazy and unfocused again. However, when they were almost to the door, she asked, "Could you stay for a minute, Sonia?"
Sonia and Peter exchanged glances, and then he left. She turned back to the chair. "Yes? Is there something you need, Mrs. Lane-Kent?"
"If you two are going to write a book about me, I think there's something you'll want to see. There's a notebook in my dresser drawer. Would you mind grabbing it for me?" Sonia did so, but when she tried to hand it over, Lois shook her head. "Oh, no. You keep it. Clark and I agreed that we'd give it to someone when the time was right." At her companion's questioning look, she explained, "If you want to know the truth about what it was like to love Clark, it's all in there. Now, I know you have to go, but before you do, could you help me get ready? Clark's coming soon to pick me up for a date, and I want to look my best for him."
Sonia slipped the journal in her bag and looked at the woman in the rocker with a mixture of sympathy and pity, uncertain whether to hurt her by reminding her of Clark's death. After a moment, she decided to leave her the comfort of the fantasy her confused mind had built in its old age. She forced a smile. "Of course." Nodding at the pearls still resting on Lois's knee, she asked, "Do you want me to get those for you?"
Lois shook her head. "Oh, no. Clark will take care of these. But if you wouldn't mind helping me with my hair…"
Ten minutes later, Sonia watched as Lois primped her hair one last time and threw the elder woman a sad look before walking out the door, the journal in her bag temporarily forgotten.
With a smile on her face, Lois rocked gently in her chair. Time passed, but she took no note of it as she waited. Finally, the window flew open and there was the soft sound of footsteps muffled by carpet as her visitor landed on the ground in front of her. "Hello, Clark," she greeted him softly. She'd known he would come to her, as he did every night.
The man standing before her was so different from he'd been the first time she'd seen him. His black hair was peppered with grey. He wore the lines of age on his face, though not as many as she did, she supposed. But he was still very much the man she remembered. Her Clark.
She held her string of pearls out to him, and he took them from her. Walking around the chair, he brushed her hair aside and then carefully fastened the string of pearls, letting his fingers brush against the soft skin of her neck as he handled the tiny gold fastening. Then he stepped around the chair again. Kneeling before her, he tenderly rearranged the sweater to wrap it tighter across her shoulders. Placing his hand over hers where it rested on the photo album, he asked, "Remembering the past?"
She grinned. "There were some people here, wanting to know what it was like when the two of us worked together at the Planet. So I relived the glory days. I also gave them our journal, like we agreed."
He nodded. "They'll be in for quite a shock when they read it and find out you were married to Superman." He stroked her hand with his thumb. Then his mouth twisted and he asked, "Are you sure it's time to do this?"
Lois's eyes were sad as she swept her hand through his hair, brushing back the lock that tended to fall over his forehead. "I'm sure," she said, and though her voice was soft and sad, it was also firm. "Telling them our story today…it only reminded me of how much has changed. In my mind, I'm still young and beautiful, but time has cursed me with the body of an old woman."
"You're still beautiful," he vowed, taking her hand in his and lifting it to his mouth, to press his lips against her papery skin.
She hummed in agreement. "But I'm also old. And tired." She squeezed his hand with a hand that shook with age. "Are you ready?"
His fingers trembled in hers, but age wasn't the cause. He bowed his head, breaking eye contact, and swallowed heavily. After a moment, he gently took the photo album from her hands and placed it on the floor nearby. Then she watched as he set his shoulders and raised his eyes to her face once more. "Yes," he murmured. "I'm ready."
She started to try to rise, but her body didn't work as well as it once had. Clark didn't let her struggle for long; rising to his feet, he bent and swept her into his arms. As they had a million times before, Lois's arms looped around his neck, and she rested her cheek on his shoulder as he turned and carried her to the window.
The evening air was cool, but Lois didn't mind as Clark drifted into the sky with her in his arms. Gazing at the city sprawled beneath them, she felt her breath catch as it always did when he flew with her like this, showing her the world as only he was able to see it. "You know, it doesn't matter how many times we do this, Clark. I never grow sick of it."
He didn't answer, and when she looked at his face, she saw tears coursing along the deep grooves of his face. With her thumb, she brushed them away and then brushed a kiss across his cheek. "We've had an incredible life together, haven't we?" she mused softly. "Seventy three years. It hasn't all been happy, but still…"
It took him a minute to get his emotions under control, but when his eyes were dry once more, he nodded. "I wouldn't trade a minute of it, Lois. Not one." Holding her tight against his chest, he tried to remain resolute, but she felt him shake. "Wait. I-I'm sorry. I know you want me to tell you goodbye, but I can't do this, Lois. I want more time!"
His eyes were clouded in pain when they met hers, and it broke her heart. "We'll always want more time," she whispered. "Another year, another day, another minute. Will there ever be a time that you's feel ready to let me go?"
Squeezing his eyes shut, he shook his head. "No," he admitted in a tortured voice. "But I can't go on without you."
Fighting back tears of her own, Lois drew his face down to hers and kissed him. "I will always love you, Clark. Always." She vowed. "If I could freeze time, I would live with you in this moment forever." With a tremulous smile, she corrected herself, "Well, maybe a moment from a few years ago, before my body ached so much all the time."
He tried to smile, but he failed. In his eyes, Lois could see all the things he couldn't say. He would never stop trying to find a way to bring her back to him, and however long he lived, he would never let her go. She loved him for that, among with so many other things she couldn't put into words.
Her voice caught in her throat as she asked for the last time, "Fly me to the moon, Smallville?" She kept her gaze locked on the lights of the city until the two of them broke through the clouds, and then she tilted her head back and stared at the moon, full in the sky above. She stared at it in silence, tears streaming down her face, until she grew tired. Then she rested her cheek against Clark's chest, as she had thousands of times before, and closed her eyes. She never felt at peace as much as she did in his arms.
Choking back his emotions, he murmured, "It's okay, Lois. You can sleep now. I've got you." Then, he bowed his head, brushed a kiss against her brow, and whispered, "I love you." Resting his cheek against her head, he held her tight against his chest, listening for the sound of her heartbeat, and he knew the very second she let go.
And then Kal-El, last son of Krypton, the man who could have been a god but chose to be a hero, bowed his head and wept for the loss of the one woman he would love for all eternity.